January 2, 2009

It's Not the Holy Land, It's Chinatown

The bombing of Gaza continues unabated, the dead in their hundreds and the wounded in their thousands, the hospitals already decimated unable to cope. To the American press, this seems of little consequence. These people are, after all, sand niggers who don't look at death the way we do.

If one adopts a short-range perspective, the crude utterances and indiscriminate rocketing of Hamas justified a response by Israel. No sovereign power, after, all, can tolerate such things, even if largely ineffective. That the bombing campaign, like the starvation campaign that preceded it, is likely to prove as useless as it is deadly, could be merely a tactical deficiency.

I have argued that its military and civilian successes, and the exile of Jews from much of the Arab world, make the existence of Israel a fait accompli, whether one likes the place or finds it quite unpleasant, as I did forty odd years ago.

A short-range perspective is not enough, however. If this were so, battles would not rage between the Palestinians and Jews over such questions as whether the old Temple ever existed in Jerusalem.

One Zionist claim is that Jews have rights to the land because it was theirs—up to 70 AD, when their revolt against Rome proved a failure. To the “it once was ours” claim is usually added a quasi-religious justification. Then of course there is the rationale that Israel is needed as a refuge against persecution.

It is true that the land was Jewish before, even if Gaza and Ashkelon were Philistine. The notion that we are going to return the heirs of long-defeated ethnic groups to their former territory is quixotic and ridiculous. If the Palestinians lost several wars and need to adapt to that, and the Sudeten Germans and Smyrna Greeks can lament but not undo their expulsions, why is the Jewish War of AD 70 something different?

The answer given by the atheist Zionist movement is that Israel is the Biblically Promised Land. Sometimes they will add a claim that Jews always lived there.

This claim is, of course, a modern fabrication. Christians, at least before the current dispensationalist fad, have always viewed Judaism as a false religion, and the Christian church as the true heir of the Biblical covenants. Although ADL types lambaste this as “supersessionism,” it is perfectly good Chrisian theology.

Both Talmudic Judaism and early Christianity had to cope, among other things, with the collapse of the Temple cult after the Jewish War. Fulfillment of the Law required pilgrimages and support of the vast abattoir that was the Temple. When the Temple was destroyed a second time, the Law--these practices-- became impossible to fulfill any longer.

Talmudic Judaism was invented to preserve Jewish identity under conditions of exile. Talmudic Judaism did not share the assumptions of modern Zionism. It taught that exile (galut or galus) was a spiritual consequence of Jewish sins, and redemption would come only with the arrival of the Messiah, seen as an earthly king rather than God made flesh in the Christian manner. Christianity generally taught that the Jews (the descendants of those who did not become Christian) would be converted in the fullness of time. There is no traditional Christian support for the view that Jews had any religious claim on the land. To the extent there is any such support, it arose in late Anglo-American nonconformist Protestant circles.

Paradoxically, however, the secularists and atheists who founded the Zionist movement looked to what is now Israel as the Jewish homeland—because it was the historic home of the Jews looked at as a nation, and because it was “promised” to the heirs of Abraham and Jacob.

This attitude was consistent with the European imperialist notion that wogs begin at Calais, and it was perfectly acceptable for the “civilized” to dispossess the “natives” whenever that was convenient. The Zionists, of course, started late, when these imperialist notions had begun to collapse.

Virtually from the beginning of Zionist settlement, it stimulated Arab hostility. Zionists like to point to this history as reflecting badly upon the Arabs, but what would one expect? Strangers come to your country, buying up land, gabbling about creating a state of their own, and refusing event to hire Arab labor.

All the rest flows naturally from this contradiction. Israel's creation always depended upon the dispossession of the Arabs, and it soon became clear that this dispossession would have to be done by force. The rest is history.

In short, at the root of all the violence is the simple fact is that the Arabs lived on the land and the Jews decided to take it from them. (Zionism also destroyed centuries-old Jewish communities around the world, but that's another story for another day).

In the film “The Battle of Algiers,” the French military officer points out that if you want to keep a French Algeria, you must countenance the brutal tactics then followed. In the same way, the starvation and slaughter in Gaza stem ultimately and almost inevitably from the Zionist claim to the land, supportable, if at all, by right of conquest. The ultimate Zionists, then, are not the “beautiful souls” of the crazy Israeli left, but men like Moshe Feiglin and Avigdor Lieberman, uncompromising, ideological, and brutal.

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